Introducing… Good Fruit Designs!

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Introducing… a t-shirt contest for a cause! This is an idea that has brewed for years and is finally coming into existence! Good Fruit Designs features designs that portray positive themes and hold periodic competitions for new designs that portray given themes. Winning designs are featured and designers are awarded a percentage of the profit.

The purpose of Good Fruit Designs is:

- To get people thinking positively as they ponder about how to portray positive themes.

- To create apparel that depict positive theme and get wearers and the people around them thinking positively.

- To engage artists in a fun quarterly competition and give them the chance to get their designs on marketable t-shirts, &

- To raise money for Project Esperanza!

The deadline for the first design contest is July 1, 2014, 12pm noon. The design theme is “hope”. To enter, your design must be in one of the following formats: jpeg, gif, ai, or png. Two colors maximum are allowed but unlimited shades of each color are acceptable. Depending on the amount and type of submissions received, we may break the contest into a 17+ age category and 16 & under.

Contest entry fee is $1 per submission. Artists can submit as many designs as they want, provided $1 is paid for each entry. Designs can be sent as an e-mail attachment to GoodFruitDesigns@gmail.com. Payments should be made via PayPal to GoodFruitDesigns@gmail.com.

Winners will be announced within 30 days after the July 1st deadline. The winner of the 17+ category will receive 50% of all profit from t-shirt sales up to $300. Payments will be made via PayPal. The winner of the 16 & under category will receive 50% of all profit from t-shirt sales up to $200.

T-shirts are for sale at www.goodfruitdesigns.storenvy.com. T-shirts are from Alternative Apparel, printed for free by Ink Wear Screenprinting in Atlanta, Georgia. Ink Wear Screenprinting has generously donated many services to Project Esperanza in the past!

Please help us to spread the word of the design contest and t-shirt sales!

Investigating Cien Fuegos, Santiago

On March 15th, I had the opportunity to travel to Cien Fuegos in Santiago with Project Esperanza to investigate an area with a high Haitian population not in school. Wanbert Elie-Tireus, co-founder and teacher at the school in Padre Granero, requested this visit to assess the extent of the lack of schooling for the youth. Another teacher, Francois Oreste and a parent to four students, Damus, were also quite excited about the thought of bringing education to Cien Fuegos. They requested funds to travel from Puerto Plata to Santiago to do an initial investigation on March 8th with the intention of presenting their findings to Project Esperanza.

After this trip, they reported great need with many children either not in school or walking long distances to attend. They organized a meeting with Project Esperanza through their organization Association of the Improvement of the Conditions of Life of Haitians (ACoVHa). At this meeting, there were many misunderstandings about expectations. While Caitlin and I were invited to visit Cien Fuegos, some group members believed that we were definitely going to start a school there. We had to reiterate that Caitlin and I visiting Cien Fuegos was solely a research trip. There were also some power issues with the elected president allowing Wanbert to travel with us and represent the entire group. I also felt a lot of individual pressure because ACoVHa saw me as someone who could personally support a school and not as part of Project Esperanza. Before Caitlin and I agreed to travel with them, we shared our thoughts about different ways in which they should approach proposing their ideas that do not involve pressure.

When we were visiting Santiago, we collaborated with Wanbert in conducting more research assessing the need in Cien Fuegos. Several mothers there reported that their children were not attending any school. While we did determine that there was a public school nearby, we did not visit this school due to many issues registering Haitian immigrant children in public schools. Some of the students in Cien Fuegos did report going to a Haitian school at a 7th Day Adventist Church. This school is an estimated 15-30 minute walk from the area and charges students 200 pesos a month. It became apparent to us that preschool and kindergarten aged children would have an extremely hard time traveling to this school without a parent accompanying them.

This is a street in Cien Fuegos, Santiago.

This is a street in Cien Fuegos, Santiago.


After hearing of this other Haitian school, we decided to visit in order to collaborate over what to do about the large amounts of children not in school. The 7th Day Adventist school is funded by student fees and the efforts of a Haitian pastor in the US. It has been functioning for 5 years and employs 4 teachers. We talked to some teachers who were asked objectively where the most need is for schooling with a high population of Haitians and they said both Cien Fuegos and another area.

We identified many potential approaches to bring more education to the Haitian children in the area. These approaches include:
1. A sponsorship program to pay the school fees for the children in Cien Fuegos who are old enough to walk the long distance to school.
2. A small school in Cien Fuegos for preschool, kindergarten, and 1st grade.
3. Conducting an investigation of the other area mentioned that is not within walking distance of the existing school.

If this investigatory trip is acted on, it would be something where an already existing Project Esperanza employee, possibly Wanbert, would move to the area and maintain a fixed salary to run things. However, any additional funding would be disbursed to ACoVHa. Teachers in the possible new school would work with the understanding that they would be paid on a random basis and students in the 7th Day Adventist School would only be supported when they are sponsored.

A Typical Volunteer Week here at Project Esperanza!

IMG_1481Hi, my name is Michelle and I’m Caitlin’s new Assistant until this August! We just had an amazing volunteer group of six people stay with us for the past week. The group consisted of a mother, her three teenage children, and a family friend. I had a great time showing them around, helping them with activities, and translating for them. They stayed in our cozy home in Muñoz and we participated in activities during the day and played plenty of cards at night. I’ll walk you through the weekly schedule to give you a better idea of what a
typical week is like as a Project Esperanza volunteer.

Monday: The volunteers arrived dazed after an early morning flight from the United States. There was free time to get settled in and Nannie, our friendly housemother who cooks and cleans for the volunteers, prepared a delicious Dominican dinner.

Tuesday: During the morning, Caitlin and I did an orientation for the volunteers. We explained everything from Haitian/Dominican history to tips for living in Muñoz. Then we did an art project with some of the children in one of our grassroots schools. The volunteer house is located only a few minutes from Project Esperanza’s school in Muñoz. The kids are always really excited to do art projects since the schools often don’t have the most art supplies available. We made caterpillars and butterflies with the kids (PUT LINK IN). We also took some pictures so the kids could make picture frames later that week.

Wednesday: On Wednesday we started our eco-construction projects for the week! We decided to make solar ovens with the kids at our school in Padre Granero to teach them about alternative energy and different cooking methods. Caitlin gave a presentation to the kids to explain energy sources, recycling, and solar power to the kids. The kids were excited to see how we could make an oven out of only a box, foil, plastic, and black paint!

We started by giving each kid a box and having him or her cut a window in the top of it. We then covered the holes with plastic and started covering the inside of the boxes with aluminum foil. It was fun to see the volunteers and the kids interact so well without being able to communicate using the same language. During Wednesday night, we had a community BINGO night in Muñoz where community members played to win bags of donations. The winners loved picking out shoes, toys, and baby clothing as prizes. Some of the volunteers helped call BINGO while the others played with the children. Despite the chaos and noise, everyone seemed to have a good experience.

Thursday: Thursday was a day filled with art projects! In the morning we made caterpillars and butterflies with the kids in Padre Granero. The project went better the second time around with a little more organization. In the afternoon we made picture frames with the kids in Muñoz, The kids enjoyed seeing their pictures inside a frame and most tried to wear their new art creations as necklaces!

Friday: On Friday morning we continued to build our eco-construction projects in Padre Granero. We continued to help the kids with insulation and painting their ovens black. After reviewing what we’ve learned during the week, we also built solar hot dog ovens with Pringles cans. The kids were so proud of their ovens and were all involved in the construction process. Later that day, we watched a movie with community members in Muñoz. We watched Journey 2 and people seemed to have fun despite the constant noise! Community members certainly like to actively participate in movie watching.

Saturday: We tested the solar ovens on Saturday! The kids in Padre Granero came to school with their parents to watch the demonstration. We cooked cookies in the ovens and hotdogs in the Pringles cans. The cooking wasn’t entirely successful with little sunlight available, but the kids still loved the process and ate the mostly cooked cookies. I think they learned a fair amount during the week about the importance of recycling and alternative energy!

Sunday: Sunday was an entirely free day! This allows volunteers to enjoy local activities such as 27 Waterfalls, Playa Dorada, Sosua, etc. One of my favorite things about helping the volunteers is telling them about all the amazing things the Dominican Republic has to offer! I’ve lived here for 6 weeks so far and still can’t get over how beautiful this country is.

Monday: After a full week of volunteers and a reflection session, the volunteers left for Las Terrenas to continue their extended visit to the Dominican Republic.

I hope that gave you a glimpse into a typical week with us at Project Esperanza!

Volunteer Report by Virginia Burton

Virginia (blonde) leading the Songs Station at English camp.

Virginia (blonde) leading the Songs Station at English camp.

I’m a student at Virginia Commonwealth University and heard about Project Esperanza through a school email. Of all the emails that come through my school email, I don’t believe it was a coincidence that I opened this one. I only had basic knowledge of the Dominican Republic and I didn’t know anyone there, so I had no idea what to expect. But I went, with an open mind and open heart.

I’ve been on many mission trips and I’ve done numerous volunteer activities but this was by far one of my most significant experiences, perhaps because I had never seen poverty to this extent before. I was informed on developing countries, I had seen pictures, read books, heard stories, etc. but living in it was eye opening on a new level. However, even the not grand parts, like the plumbing, the humidity, the mosquitos, and the inconsistent water, were hardly a big deal for me and if anything gave me a better perspective.

From the moment I met Caitlin, I knew she had a huge heart. She’s very detailed and intentional about what she does and she does it well. She spoke truth, answered any of our questions, and never sugar coated anything. There were so many stories to hear and discover.

Working with the kids was a challenge, but they all taught me so much. At the end of the day I think they just needed to be smothered in love. Many of them don’t get to be kids and have to grow up fast. There is dissonance between the Haitian and the Dominican children, which was sad because from what I saw, they both need guidance and love.

I didn’t want to be just another volunteer or “gringo” passing through. Knowing Spanish definitely helped me connect but I knew I really needed to understand the culture and that’s what I wanted, to be fully immersed and understanding. Having free time in the afternoon also really helped me take in the culture and experience some of the fun things to do. Being a religious person, my beliefs are from the Bible and follow Christ’s teaching. I do good deeds not just because they’re good to do, but also because that’s what Christians are called to do, in different unique ways. I believe those of us from developed countries have a certain responsibility to developing countries. One of the reasons I love PE is because they are grounded in Christ but don’t enforce their beliefs on anyone, they show their faith through their actions.

I’m still not sure what I want to do when I finish school, but I’m all the more thankful for my opportunity to be in school. I want to use my knowledge to make a difference, even if it’s just a small difference, but with great love. I’m learning to step outside of my comfort zone more and I do hope to return to the DR this summer!

Adopt a School

Project Esperanza is proud to present an exciting new opportunity to get involved with our organization, help a community in need, and enrich lives through education.

Without further ado I’d like to introduce…

We are currently seeking individuals, corporations, organizations, and churches to sponsor or co-sponsor one of our two grassroots schools.  Contributions will cover all expenses necessary to maintain a stable, effective learning environment such as rent on the school buildings and teacher salaries.  Sponsors will have access to current information including all incoming funds, expenses, teacher attendance, and student progress.  If you are interested, please contact Caitlin McHale at caitlinmchale@esperanzameanshope.org.

 Please meet our schools…

Featuring: Willy Denis

Where are you from?   I am from Grisonguarde, Haiti. It’s close to Cap Haitian.

When did you come to the Dominican Republic?   I came in 2003. I think I was 10 years old at the time.

Why did you come?   I came searching for life. Mark (fake name) is from the same place as my family in Haiti. Mark talked to my mom and said that he would come with me to the Dominican Republic. He didn’t say he wanted me to work for him. My dad had died and my mom had trouble taking care of us. People who used to come to the Dominican Republic used to say it was a good place. I understood that you could find things on the ground, etc. I liked bikes a lot. Mark said I would find a bike in the Dominican Republic in the trash or on the ground. He said I would find a radio too. So my mom sent me. When I was going, my mom said that I would go and to not touch other people’s stuff and don’t enter into other people’s problems or business. She also told me not to fight or argue with anyone. She also told me that when I make money, not to forget her. My dad had died and she is my mom, my family, and my priority. She told me to not waste money when I have it. I should send it to her so she could buy a goat or a pig. That way, if I had a problem in the future, I would have an investment. That way she wouldn’t have to ask people for help on my behalf and for people to embarrass her.

How did you come?   I came through the woods. We walked from Ouanaminthe (on the border on the Haiti side) until Mao. Then you take a vehicle to another part of the country, walk more, then arrive at a place where another car picks you up. When you get to Santiago, you take a public bus and make it to Puerto Plata home free. The first time I came with other people (190 people altogether)… with a passer and with Mark’s wife, and many other people. We didn’t run into any guards along the way, just tigre (Dominican thieves). At that point I was very scared and thought that I wouldn’t have come if I knew that would happen. I ran away and so did everyone else. First, they wanted the passer to give them money but he wouldn’t. Then they started searching other people but everyone said to not give them money. We were a big group and could fight them off. They didn’t have guns but they had machetes and knives. Our group fought them with rocks and sticks. No one got cut. One tigre threw a stick at me but I dodged it. I cried and said, “Let’s go back!” The tigres went and found other tigres because they saw that we were a big group. All through the night they were looking for us and we were doing our best to avoid them. Everyone that had white clothes on took them off so that they had a harder time finding us. We weren’t safe until we got to the place where a vehicle picked us up.

The second time I came through the woods by myself with a passer. There were about 10 other people that time but I didn’t know them. We didn’t have any problems that time. This was in 2007 when Caitlin sent me to see my family. I came back right away so that I could live in the house. Before that was the only time I ever went and visited Haiti again since I came here the first time. Before I went, I asked God to protect me along the way and he did. I did the same when I was coming back and he protected me again.

How was your life in the Dominican Republic before you got involved with Project Esperanza?   When I came, even when there was a bike around, Mark wouldn’t let me go on it. He never wanted me to leave the house after dark. He didn’t want Dominicans to abuse me. Mark lives in Padre Granero. They used to make me do lots of work. But when Mark’s wife used to hit me, he never wanted her to.

The first day that I got there, they didn’t make me go and sell sweets. They made me walk with another kid that was already used to selling. This way I learned the route. They didn’t explain to me that I would go and sell sweets every day. They just sent me to walk with another boy the first day. Then the other kids started explaining to me that I would have to do that and that they would never let me rest. The only sandals they used to buy for me were those “kalis” that sold for 15 pesos. When you walk around in those, anything can cut your feet.

Mark didn’t let me play. All other kids who used to go and sell for other people used to go and play but he never wanted to let me play at all. Other kids used to go to the beach sometimes, but I was never allowed. Sometimes when I would have a really good day selling, I would tell him that I wasn’t going to go sell tomorrow. He would say, no don’t say that. Not tomorrow, but another day. But he never gave me a day off.

I used to sleep on a mat on the floor with four other kids. After Mark saw that I sold really well, he bought a little bed for me, and not the others. He used to wake us up early in the morning, around 5:30 am, and tell us to go search for wood on the beach. Then we would all do different jobs…heat up peanuts, take the shells off peanuts, grind up coconut, and then someone would make the sweets over the fire with sugar, water, and other ingredients. Then there was one who would bag the cooked peanuts. When we were done, we would bathe, put on our clothes, and go out and sell. At this point it was noon. Before we would go, they would give us a little money to buy eggs and bread to eat.

We would get back from selling around 8 or 9 pm. They would give us a little money to get a little rice that we would make ourselves before going to bed. Sometimes we used to talk before we went to bed. The next morning he woke us up early and we did it all over again. We never had a day off – 7 days a week. Sundays were the biggest selling day because people didn’t work so there are many people in the streets. Throughout the four or so years I lived with Mark, I remember three days he gave me off because I had sold well. I also spent one month where I didn’t sell at one point because I had an accident where I hurt my leg and couldn’t walk. He took good care of me during that month so that I could get better and get back to work.

Mark used to try to encourage us to sell more. He would say that he would buy things for us if we sold a lot but even if we sold, he wouldn’t follow through. One time I found a wallet with lots of money in it and I gave it to him. He took me to the flea market and bought a pair of tennis shoes to reward me. Later he took the shoes and sent them to his son in Haiti.

How did you get involved in Project Esperanza?   A boy named Junior who used to go to the house took me there in November 2006 when Caitlin and her mom were visiting. Kristin was there but had already gone back and I didn’t meet her. When I got there, I saw lots of my other friends and Caitlin was giving out soccer balls. She gave me one and then the next day left with her mom. They said they were coming back Dec. 31st. I went back that day and saw Kristin and Caitlin right when they first got there. After that, I came every day and did lessons and participated in activities with all of the volunteers. Soon, the house was opened for people to stay. After a few weeks, the volunteers left, but came back in March. I did not live in the house but I wanted to. I never told Mark that I went to the house. Other kids used to mention it to him but I told them not to. I used to pray that they would take me into the house. I would ask the other kids in the house to talk to Caitlin and Bernard, who was responsible at the time, on my behalf and would give them eggs to encourage them to do that.

One night when we were about to go home and it was getting late, Kristin said she would pay a motorcycle for us. But we knew it was too late to go back. They might not open the door for us. Kristin had sent two ahead on motos and then as she was going to pay for me and a friend, a police car stopped and tried to arrest us. Kristin cried and made them not take us. We then went back to the house and she said she would ask Caitlin if we could spend the night. She let us stay that night. The next morning they gave out book bags to everyone who had been going to school. I got one even though I hadn’t started going to school yet because I was selling. When I went back to Mark’s house where I lived, he told me to never sleep outside of the house again. His wife was yelling at me and wanted him to hit me, but he didn’t.

Caitlin gave me the money to go to Haiti when I asked her and then the other kids told Mark that she had given me the money. Mark asked me to see it and for me to give it to him to hold onto. I didn’t give it to him. He let me go. The reason that I went was because I wanted to go and come back quickly to live in the house. I knew that if I moved into the house, he would come after me because it was close, but if I went to Haiti and came back, I wouldn’t be his responsibility anymore. When I came back from Haiti, they let me enter the house. I began going to school.

How did your life change once you got involved with Project Esperanza?   Once I started going to the house, I felt more comfortable with myself. Before I began going to the house, I could only imagine a future of selling sweets day after day. After I began going, I began imagining a different life. I had never gone to school before but was now required to go to school every day. I didn’t know how to read or write but learned. I didn’t know how to play soccer very well but learned. Lots of boys that I was not friends with before I became good friends with.

I used to go to church on Sundays sometimes in Haiti with my mom. Sometimes she didn’t go but she sent me with others. But we didn’t have a Bible in the house. When I came to the Dominican Republic, Mark never went with us to church. Met Wanbert (director of grassroots school in Padre Granero) used to always invite me to go to church with him Sunday nights after I sold sweets, and I used to go sometimes. When I moved into the house we did Bible every night and I learned a lot but lots of the others didn’t take it seriously and would fight, etc.

When I lived with Mark I worked all day and came home and gave him all of the money. I never had any money of my own. When I moved into the house, Caitlin made contracts with us where she bought shoe shine kits and then we were supposed to shine shoes to pay her back. Once we paid her back, we had our own business. I used to always give her money to hold for me too. Sometimes I used to send money to my mom in Haiti with someone who was going.

Now I have learned lots of science, history, math, Bible, etc. I used to enjoy seeing people fight. I used to encourage them and laugh. I came to see that fighting is not good. People get hurt. I used to think it was a game but I came to see that it’s something that can give people real problems and people can die. I used to ask God for him to help me change so that when people fight, I would not laugh. I used to annoy people and pick fights but I don’t do that anymore. I see that it’s not good. Someone can be sitting there peacefully and then I go and pick a fight with him. Why? I saw that God doesn’t like that. If I hurt someone then I’m hurting God too. I used to tell God that and God changed some issues that I had. I told God that I wanted a bike and he made me find two. And at one point I even had a share in a scooter.

I used to always pray for God for us not to think about taking advantage of people, not to steal, but to live like a family. And he answered that too.

What would you like for your future?   I would like to go further with school.

What would you like for the future of Project Esperanza?   I would like for it to advance. I would like for supporters to be more interested in the organization. I would like for the schools to go well and for the teachers to be paid on time. I would like rent to be paid easily and food to be purchased easily. I would like for kids in the same situation I was in to not be mistreated. When I see kids in the streets, I feel bad for them because I was once in the same situation. I would like for the organization to be able to serve these kids. I would like for the soccer team to have lots of players among kids in the streets like we did in the beginning.

Is there anything else you would like to say?   Thank you Caitlin who held onto me for a long time. Thank you for everything that Project Esperanza has done for me. Thank you God. Please continue to advance the organization.

Another Fundraising Competition!

First of all, a big thanks to everyone who promoted and donated to make the Global Giving Bonus Day our best one yet, raising close to $2,000! The money will come in towards the end of November; a wonderful start to the holiday season.

Now we have yet another opportunity for fundraising. GuideStar, a website that gathers and publicizes information about non-profits, is running a competition from November 1st through December 31st. The organization that receives the most individual donations during this time (from at least 50 donors) will be awarded $5,000! Donate to Project Esperanza HERE. Please share this information with your families and friends. The holiday season is a time for giving. Let’s end this year strong!